Great Fun with Fourth Grade Rats

A fourth grade teacher is always looking for a book that both boys and girls will enjoy and read. “Fourth Grade Rats” by Jerry Spinelli is just such a book.

The main characters are Joey, Suds, and Judy. It all begins with this little rhyme:

“First grade babies
Second grade cats
Third grade angels
Fourth grade rrrrrrrats”

Activity one:

It is great time to ask students to create a little poetry. Ask them to write a simple four line poem. Hand out different titles. Here are some suggestions that work well with this book.

Bully Boys
Classroom Fun
Recess Renegades
No Class Clowns Here

Activity two:

Joey is the leader of the pack. His theory is that being a rat is part of becoming a man.  There is a code of conduct that is required. You can not be afraid. You can not cry.  You have to mess up your room. You can’t have peanut butter and jelly sandwiches , you must eat bologna sandwiches now. Joey also requires that you are mean to kids and steal their Twinkies.

If you were going to form a club and have rules what would your five rules be? Make a poster of your rules and explain why they are rules.

Activity three:

Let’s learn about Jerry Spinelli. Every child needs role models. Have them do some research about the author.  Does he do other things? Is this the only way he makes money? Could you be an author? Write an essay about Jerry Spinelli and what you learned from him.

Synonym word search

Word searches alone are not a very productive teaching tool. However, synonym word searches help the students practice another skill. List the original words from the book and have them see if they can find a synonym in the word search. This should be a challenge, not a breeze.

Here are some examples:

1. “bully” is on the list -intimidate is in the word search
2. “Twinkie” is on the list – confection is in the word search
3. “roof” is on the list – cover is in the word search
4. “rat” is on the list – rodent is in the word search
5. “friend” in on the list – ally is in the word search

It is a good idea to have about 20 words in the search. These become the vocabulary words for the week because the students have something to use as a reference with their reading.

These lesson plans include no testing on what was read in the book. The reasoning is that they are learning, but mostly they read the book because it was fun and they liked it.   Sometimes the lesson plans should be based on the theory of the book and not a test about the book.